Category Archives: Grief

Favorite Middle Grade Novels of 2019 (so far!) for summer reading!

It’s summer!  Time to relax, re-charge, and….. READ!  At this time, I like to put out a list of favorite middle grade novels for summer reading.  I haven’t blogged about middle grade novels all year, but I’ve certainly been reading a lot of them!  Whether you know a child,  tween, or teen who might be looking for some great summer picks or you are on the look-out for a new book for next year’s read-aloud, there is something here for everyone: Sci-Fi, family, friendship, mystery, global issues, immigration, bees, wolves, foxes, and frogs!  What trends have I noticed in MG novels this year?  Stories written in multiple perspectives with extraordinary character voices.  Some very powerful books – well worth checking out!  Happy summer reading, everyone!

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Operation Frog Effect – Sarah Scheerger

Mrs. Graham, my new teacher hero, explains the butterfly effect to her class:  “It’s the idea that a small change in one thing can lead to big changes in other things…Anything and everything we do—positive or negative, big or small—can influence other people and the world.”   Talk about making connections!  I said the same thing to the grade 7’s this year when we started our unit on our developing a positive Social Footprint.  This book is getting a LOT of attention right now and I’m not surprised!  I was SO impressed with the way it addresses many difficult issues, but in a light-hearted format which kids can relate. Told through eight perspectives and through letters, graphic novel-like illustrations, poetry and movie scenes, this book explores how young people can come together, speak up and make a difference.  It is both delightfully entertaining while also sending a powerful, positive message.  A MUST read!  LOVE!

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The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise Dan Gemeinhart

Rodeo and Coyote are a father/daughter duo that live on the road in an old school bus called Yager. They have been roaming the U.S. for five years – ever since a tragic accident that left them both devastated.  This is another “buzz” book that should really come with tissues because I cried happy and sad tears the whole way through.  This story is about family, friends, grief, and adventure.  Amazing, lovable cast of characters, incredible voice, beautiful writing.  It’s perhaps a bit too early to call it my favorite middle grade read of 2019, but at this moment, it is definitely in my top three!

New Kid – Jerry Craft

Wow!  This FANTASTIC middle grade graphic novel is a must have addition for any school/classroom library. Approaches subtle & overt racism in an accessible & understandable way through the lens of the “new kid” at a private school.  Portrays serious “fitting in at school” issues and one I could see sparking a lot of rich discussions.  Major kid and teacher appeal!

The Bridge HomePadma Venkatraman

An absolutely wonderful and heart-wrenching middle grade novel that takes a bleak look at the plight of lower-caste street children in India.  Similar to when I read “A Fine Balance”, this book will stay with me for a long time.  Based on true experiences of two extraordinary sisters who escape an abusive home life and the street boys who become like brothers to them.  In spite of the immense suffering and loss, this is a story filled with hope, beauty, compassion, and love.  Told in the voice of a girl writing to her sister, this book was hard to read at times, but even harder to put down.  This book is one of two choices for the Global Read Aloud this year.  I highly recommend it.

Pay Attention Carter JonesGary D. Schmidt

When Carter Jones opens the door one morning, he discovers a butler, complete with coat tails and top hat, sent from England to assist his family of 6 after their military father is deployed overseas. We “infer” that life is rather chaotic in the house with four kids and a now single mom.  I did not know what to expect with this book but was surprised at how charming, emotional, and unique it was.  While not particularly transforming, I enjoyed the narrative voice of the middle schooler, learned a lot about the rules of cricket, and found it to be both humorous and poignant.

Count Me In – Varsha Bajaj

This book is not released until August but put it on your list or in your cart now!  It is a powerful story about Karina and Chris, two middle school students who, despite their differences, become friends after Karina’s grandfather starts tutoring Chris after school.  When Karina’s grandfather is brutally attacked by a stranger shouting hate filled words and claiming her Papa does not belong in America, Karina and Chris question how such hate could be directed someone who has lived in this country for 50 years.  Similar to  Wishtree, I really appreciate how this book deals with important and current issues on racism and immigration but at a level and book length appropriate for a younger age group.  Perfect read-aloud for grade 5-6 level to spark discussions about hate crimes, immigration issues and using social media to raise awareness.

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The Simple Art of FlyingCorey Leonardo 

Again, I did not know what to expect when I started reading this one but was surprised by how quirky, whimsical and playful it was.  This story is told from several points of view, but mainly from the perspective of Alastair – a grumpy African parrot born in a pet store who is looking for a grand escape to a better life for himself and his sister Aggie.  For fans of The One and Only Ivan, this is a wonderful middle grade story that I think many children will love.  Great characters with great voices.  I enjoyed that the three points of views (Aggie, Fritz, and Alastair)  are told through three different genres (Aggie writes letters; Fritz writes journal entries; and Alastair writes poetry).   Tender, poignant and refreshing.

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Scary Stories for Young Foxes – Christian McKay Heidicker 

I LOVE THIS BOOK!  And don’t let the cuteness of foxes mislead you – this book is scary!  And kids like scary.  Warning – Foxes die in this book.  But don’t let that dissuade you from it.  Because it’s BRILLIANT!  So so SO good!  The writing is incredible –  weaving 8 distinct stories together.   It reads like you’re one of the foxes, listening to the storyteller, travelling through tall grass, wind between trees in the forest, smelling purple, jumping over large barriers, and feeling everything Mia and Uly feel.  I can’t even explain how good this book is.  You MUST read this one!

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The Bee Maker Mobi Warren

In a recent blog post, I featured books about bees – but hadn’t discovered this one yet!  WOW!   This book is highly creative and kept me turning the pages to find out what happens.  Part science-fiction, the main character time travels from a Texas farm in 2039, where the bees have almost disappeared, to ancient Greece to search for a way to save the bees and ends up saving a boy in the process.   This one really sticks with you and I found myself thinking about the story even when I wasn’t reading it.  A page turner with deep themes – this one will appeal to a little older MG tween as well as adults.

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A Wolf Called Wander – Rosanne Parry

Attention animal lovers!  Inspired by the true story of the famous wolf, known as OR7, who wandered 1,000 miles, A Wolf Called Wander is about family, courage and a poignant journey of survival.  I fell in love Swift, the wolf – his voice and his sheer determination to live no matter what loss and adversity he faces.  (Again, I found myself thinking about dear Ivan.)  The writing is brilliant – gorgeous language that filled my soul.  Beautiful illustrations and an extra factual section about wolves and their environment are added bonuses.  Beautiful.  

Shouting at the Rain – Lynda Mullaly Hunt

From the author of Fish in a Tree and One for the Murphyscomes another poignant, moving, beautifully written story of changing friendships, belonging, loss, love, and forgiveness.  So many themes to explore here!   Here is another example of a writer who develops amazing, strong characters – I don’t think there was one character  in this book I didn’t believe in.  Delsie, our narrator, is strong, independent, kind, and accepting.  I felt like I wanted to be her friend!  She deals with friendship problems,  mean girls, abandonment issues, and struggles to define what, exactly, makes a family.  (not to mention, she loves tracking weather and HATES to wear shoes!)  Another winner by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

The Night Diary – Veera Hiranandani

I absolutely love the writing in this book!  Told from the point of view of a 12-year old Nisha through her diary entries to her mother who has passed away, this story is centered around the confusion, frustration, fear, and sadness experienced during of India’s Partition in 1947.  I learned so much history from this book.  Great characters, suspense, adventure, and heartache interwoven into a story of a family caught in the midst of horrendous cultural/political conflict–Hindus against Muslims.  Amazing sensory writing – I felt the wind, the dust, smelled the spices, felt the pencil in Nisha’s hand.   This would make an excellent choice for a grade six or seven read-aloud or Lit Circle book.

Other Words for Home – Jasmine Warga

“I just want to live in a country where we can all have dinner again without shouting about our president or rebels and revolution.”   An emotional, heart-breaking, and brilliantly written story told in verse about Jude, a 12 year old Muslim refugee facing racism in America. This book deals with the struggles and the heart ache of leaving everything you know behind and searching for your identity when facing an  unknown country and culture.  I would definitely use this book in a grade 6 or 7 class for Literature Circles or a class novel.

Sweeping Up the Heart – Kevin Henkes

What does lonely look like?  Feel like?  Sound like?  I can see some people feeling this book was a little slow – “nothing really happens”.  But there is something so very fragile and sweet in this gentle story of Amelia and her longing to be noticed, loved, felt, understood.  As teachers, we come in contact with many Amelias.  Touching and poetic, this book may not appeal to everyone, but for a thoughtful reader willing to explore loss and loneliness, it is a stunner.   Lots of beautiful subtlety in Henkes’ writing – he leaves lots of space for the reader’s thinking.  I found it heartbreaking and beautiful.

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Caterpillar Summer – Gillian McDunn

A stunning debut novel so full of voice and heart!  Instead of spending the summer with her best friend, Cat is shipped off to her grandparents with her brother Chicken, and given the responsibility of caring for him.  Oh, and did I mention she has never met her grandparents before?   So much to love about this book!  I love smart, thoughtful,  compassionate Cat and her sweet, creative brother Chicken.  I love that each and every character experiences some kind of transformation.  I love that the “bad guy” in this book is real and not “typical” or “cliche”.   I love the interpersonal relationships of the characters.  I love the visual descriptions and sensory details.  I love the themes of family, friendship, community, responsibility, and forgiveness.  I guess I love this book!

The Benefits of Being an Octopus – Ann Braden

I almost forgot to include this book because I read it several months ago – but it is a MUST read and share book.  (Thanks to Kim Fedoruk for reminding me about it!)  An eye-opening, transforming, and compassionate look at poverty and empathy,  and the right to be treated fairly and equally.  Zoey doesn’t have much of a chance to worry about what other grade 7’s might be worried about – things like homework and crushes. She’s too busy helping her family just scrape by, and taking care of her three other siblings.  According to Zoe – she’d literally have to be an octopus with eight tentacles to juggle all the tasks she faces every day.   Zoey has far more responsibility than anyone her age should ever have, and reading about her made my heart ache. Her character is so strong, complex and believable.  And the writing…. the writing is so beautiful and filled with so many amazing quotes.  This book is not to be missed.  I would recommend this book for your more mature middle grade readers  (end of grade 6 or grade 7) but every adult should read it, too.

And there you have it!  My favorite Middle Grade novels so far this year!

Thank for stopping by!  Hope one or two books have caught your eye!

 

 

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Filed under 2019 releases, Bee Books, Friendship, graphic novel, Grief, Homelessness, Identity, immigration, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, Point of View, Poverty, Sci-Fi

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? First New Books for 2019

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It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

It’s hard to believe that it’s already February!  Where did January go?  But with the start of a new year, there are always new books to read and share!  Here are just a few of the gorgeous new picture books (and one novel!) I’ve been reading over the past few weeks…

When Sadness is at Your Door by Eva Eland

When Sadness is At Your Door – Eva Eland

Children sometimes struggle to understand and cope with their emotions, especially the “big” ones like anger and sadness. Talking about our feelings helps us process them, and this book gives readers a tender and comforting way to work through sadness.  Excellent anchor book for lessons about feelings.

How To Give Your Cat A Bath: In Five Easy Steps – Nicola Winstanley

This book is laugh out loud hilarious! Take a little girl, her cat (who does not want a bath), and an empty bathtub. Add a multitude of silly shenanigans and very funny pictures and you have a MUST read aloud book for your class.  Perfect anchor book for instructional “How To” writing.  LOVE!

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All You Need is Love – John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Kind of hard to resist this one.  Beautifully illustrated book which brings John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s world-renowned classic song “All You Need Is Love” to life.  Would be a great way to introduce a younger generation to this classic song and these talented artists.  (I always think about the wedding scene in “Love Actually” when I hear this song!)

My Heart

My Heart – Corinna Luyken

“My heart is a window. My heart is a slide. My heart can be closed…or opened up wide.” Listening to, following, and caring for our hearts is the theme in this gorgeous book.  Meta-cognition of our hearts (if there is such a thing!), this book helps readers to see that our hearts (and our emotions) are always changing – can be open, closed, full, empty. Gorgeous metaphors for the heart written with lovely rhyming text and beautiful grey and yellow illustrations (look for all the hearts hidden in the pictures) A lovely book for the both younger and older students (great for inferring!) and would be a wonderful book to share around Valentine’s Day.  Empowering and hopeful.

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There Are No Bears in This Bakery – Julia Sarcone-Roach

Spoiler Alert – There ARE bears in this  bakery!  Despite Muffin the Cat’s watchful eye, one small hungry bear does get into the bakery.  But Muffin has donuts. Which, as we all know, bears like an awful lot.  So much to like about this book – bright, colorful illustrations and great word choice.  This book would also make a great anchor for teaching similes, point of view, and the five senses.

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The Good Egg – Jory John

I am SO excited about this follow up to hilarious and heartfelt The Bad Seed.   With the same hilarious voice and delightful illustrations, this is the charming tale of a VERY good egg who learns that it’s not always necessary to be perfect, and sometimes okay not to always be the good egg all the time. Great message about self care and not having to please everyone all the time.  (Released Feb. 12th)

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Say Something! – Peter H. Reynolds

LOVE LOVE LOVE this new book by the beloved Peter H. Reynolds which encourages young readers to find their voice and use it to make the world a better place.  A perfect anchor book for some of the lessons in my Powerful Understanding book (“The World”)  A powerful, empowering, inspiring call to action told in a none preachy way.  An absolute MUST READ!  (Released Feb. 27th but you can pre-order!)

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The Rough Patch – Brian Lies

Oh, this book.  This book.  Kleenex required. (extra if you are a dog lover)  Evan the fox is an avid gardener and he and his dog have created an extraordinary garden and take great joy in nurturing it. However, when Evan loses his best friend, the grief is almost unbearable.  Evan transforms his beautiful garden into “The saddest and most desolate spot he could make it.”  Such a beautiful story of love and friendship and loss and grief and hope.  Gorgeous art.  A roller coaster of emotions.  And did I mention Kleenex?

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Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish – Beth Perry

Birthdays are important days to celebrate. But before you do, you should make sure you’re following the ten important rules of your big day. Rule #1? Make sure it actually is your birthday.  A joyful celebration of every child’s favorite day!  Adorable illustrations.

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Perfect – Max Amato

Great anchor for growth mindset, creativity and getting along, despite your differences.  A fussy eraser tries to keep the pages clean, while a mischievous pencil keeps trying to scribble up the pages.  The two opposing forces finally come together and learn that they can have fun together, despite their differences.  Great illustrations – I kept trying to sweep away the pencil shavings!

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Dress Like a Girl Patricia Toht

What does it mean to “Dress Like a Girl”?  In this lovely new book by Patricia Toht (illustrated by Lorian Tu-Dean), a group of girls at a slumber party decide dressing up means following your passion, your creativity, and your heart.  An inspiring and empowering story for younger readers.  “Make your own rules in this big wide world, Set your sights high…and dress like a girl!”  

Noodlephant – Jacob Kramer

This book totally surprised me in many ways!  First of all, it’s longer than an average picture book – 80 pages.  Second, I thought it was about an elephant who loves pasta – WRONG!  It’s actually a story about injustice, civil rights, and peaceful protests.  But it’s also wacky, fun, and filled with great word play and delightful illustrations!  Noodlephant lives in an animal community where the Kangaroos in charge save special privileges for themselves and make unfair rules that impact the other animals.  Noodlephant and friends come together to protest these unfair rules, and work together to help make the community a place where every animal is treated kindly.  SUCH a great book to introduce younger readers to standing up for your rights and working together for change.  Lots to like about this one.

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The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise – Dan Gemeinhart

Sometimes making friends is tough, and sometimes it’s as simple as finding someone who loves books and kittens as much as you do.”

It seems silly to say that this is my favorite Middle Grade novel of 2019 – since it’s the only one I have read!   But my, oh my.  This book.  Wow.  I loved it so, so much.  Could not put it down.  Cried and cried.  It’s a compelling, heart-breaking story of Coyote, a 12 year old girl, and her dad, Rodeo, who set off in a re-furbished school bus after a tragic traffic accident kills her mother and her two sisters.  Along their journey, they gather an incredible cast of characters, all of whom, like Coyote and her dad,  are lost in some way or another.  Amazing characters, gorgeous writing – this is a remarkable story of loss and love and grief and so much more.  PLEASE read and share with your middle grade students.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope one or two books caught your eye!

Happy reading week, everyone!

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Filed under 2019 releases, Feelings, Grief, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Writing Strategies

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Summer Picture Book Picks 2018 (Part 2) Family, Friendship, and Inclusion

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

Well my intention of blogging more this summer has certainly not unfolded as planned!  But I have discovered I have only two speeds – Fast Forward and STOP!  And when I stop – I literally get nothing done!  But I’m enjoying the lazy (hot) days of summer immensely!  Here is my “Part 2” of some my favorite summer picture books.  This week I’m featuring books that focus on Family, Friendship and Inclusion – all themes and lessons you will find in my new book Powerful Understanding.  Enjoy and happy reading!

Drawn Together (Hyperion Picture Book (eBook)) by [Lê, Minh]

Drawn Together – Minh Le

Beautifully touching story celebrating the power of unspoken language and bridging the gap between ages, languages, and cultures.  A young boy and his aging grandfather can’t communicate due to a language barrier but eventually find a new way to communicate through drawing together.   Lots of connections here.  Stunning story… stunning illustrations.  I see award nominations coming for this one.

Islandborn – Junot Diaz

“Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”  A perfect book for exploring immigration, community, family, traditions and culture.  WOW!  Great book for sharing and making connections to family origins.  Bright, bursting illustrations.  LOVE!

Alma and How She Got Her Name – Juana Martinez-Neal

Who named you?  What does your name mean?  What connection does your name have to your family?  These are questions I love to ask my students as we explore identity  (and the first lesson in my Powerful Understanding book!) Alma has six names – each one connected to people in her family.   A perfect anchor for a lesson on exploring our names!

Funeral – Matt James

I love books that invite questions from the cover… “What’s a funeral?” …“Who died?”…  “Why do the kids look so happy when the book is called The Funeral?”  “Why are the letters in the title in different colors?”   A refreshing look at a “FUN-eral” of a beloved uncle – celebrating life rather than mourning death.  It’s simple, honest and affirming.   This one grew on me.

FRIENDSHIP

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Little Robot Alone – Patricia Maclachlan

Can’t ever miss reading a book by the great Patrica Maclachlan…  Little Robot Alone is a lovely story about a Robot who decides to use his creativity to make himself a friend – a robot dog!  Repetitive segments and sing-song elements make this a charming read-a-loud for Pre-K-Gr. 1.  Would be a great anchor for inviting students to create their own “friend”.   (Would also be a great anchor for my MMT school project – based on The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.  See my blog post here.)

Hoot and Olive:  Brave Enough for Two – Jonathan D. Voss

Mix a little Goodnight Moon, Winnie-the-Pooh, and The Night Gardner…. and you have this delightful story of two inseparable friends – a little girl and her stuffed Owl. Gorgeous, whimsical watercolor illustrations.  A tale of bravery, adventure and hope.  Love this one.  (I know I say that a lot but I really did love this one!)

Rescue and Jessica – A Life-Changing Friendship – Jessica Kensky

Written by two of the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing, this picture book is the true story of one of them and their service dog, Rescue.  But it is really the story about overcoming life’s challenges and the hope we find during times of overwhelming adversity.  I love the parallel stories of both Rescue, a dog that thought he would grow up to be a seeing eye dog, but life had a different responsibility for him and Jessica, a young girl whose life also turned out differently than she imagined. Together they rescue each other.

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We Don’t Eat our Classmates – Ryan T. Higgins

Oh my goodness – SUCH a funny book!   Yes, there will be many “back to school” books being released this month… but this is definitely the one I recommend.  So fresh and funny, but teaches empathy so beautifully.  A perfect read-aloud or gift for that young one who might be experiencing “back to school jitters”

                                                       How to Be a Lion – Ed Vere

Melt my heart.  I love this book.  SO simple yet such an important message:  there is more than one way to do something. Or be something.   Leonard is not your typical lion. Leonard is not fierce but enjoys the great outdoors and loves words.  He befriends Marianne, a poetic duck and, together, they compose poems.  When other lions hear about unconventional Leonard – they confront the pair.  A unique and beautiful story about celebrating individuality and diversity; for standing up for your gentle self and befriending who you want.  This is a great book for building classroom community.

                                               Niblet & Ralph –  Zachariah OHora

Two look-alike pet cats switch places in this humorous, sweet story of mistaken identity.  A little like “The Parent Trap” for cats!  Love the retro illustrations.  I like how, while the cats look alike, their owners slowly discover their differences.  Very sweet story.

Friendship is Like a Seesaw – Shona Innes

Great rhyming read-aloud for your younger students.  Sweet illustrations and gentle text explores friends at their best–sharing, laughing, and playing together–as well as friends who sometimes say hurtful things, leave others out, or get a bit bossy.  I love how the story introduces specific “friendship fix” strategies (another lesson in my Powerful Understanding book!) like talking about our feelings, looking at our own friendship skills, or taking a break.  A great anchor book for talking about the ups and downs of friendships!  

INCLUSION 

All Are Welcome – Alexandra Penfold

Oh my.   This book.  It’s a must read for every teacher to share in the first days or week of school.  A wonderful, welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity, inclusiveness, acceptance, and celebration of all cultures in a school community.   I hope this book ends up in EVERY library in EVERY school EVERYWHERE!

The Outlaw Nancy Vo

Wow.  This book is powerful, so powerful.  Set in the old west, it tells the story of an Outlaw who, after many years of terrorizing a town, disappears.  When he returns, years later, he must begin the long process of making amends.   While not really about inclusion, it is a story about forgiveness, acceptance and second chances.  Simple text but this is definitely going to be added to my list of Inferring books for intermediate students. Would make a great book to spark conversations about forgiveness.   Love the “old west” feel to the mixed-media illustrations.

We are All Dots:  A Big Plan for a Better World –  Giancarlo Macrì

If you attended any of my workshops this past spring, you will have heard me going on and on about this amazing, powerful picture book that introduces, in simple format, many important social issues.  Intended for an older audience, this book would stimulate great discussions about equality and diversity with older students.   SO many inferences can be made from the many different dot images.  This is one of my favorite books of 2018.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you found a book or two that caught your eye!

 

 

 

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Filed under 2018 releases, Connect, Diversity, Family, Friendship, Grief, Identity, immigration, IMWAYR, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, making connections, New Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?Summer 2018 Picture Books – Part 1: Understanding Identity and Feelings

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

Yes, I know…it’s actually Tuesday!  But it’s summer and it feels like Monday!  Ahhh…. summer!  A time to rest, rejuvenate, re-connect, and reflect!  And while some may be binge-watching a few Netflicks series, I will have my head buried in a pile of new picture books!   There are so many I want to share so I have tried to “group” them into themes.  This week, I am featuring picture books that would work very well with lessons from my new book Powerful Understanding – understanding identity and emotions.  These would also be excellent anchor books for making connections.

One Of A Kind by Chris Gorman

One of a Kind – Chris Gorman

Celebrating all that makes you unique, of being oneself and how finding “your people” – a tribe of your own kind – can lead to something special.  Upbeat, rhythmic text and gorgeous illustrations.  I liked the stark black and white line drawing illustrations with bright yellow and pink highlighting the words.  I would use this book to spark a conversation about “unique” qualities:  What are the traits that make you unique? What unique trait are you most proud of?   What are the common traits do you and your friends share?

Alma and How She Got Her Name – Juana Martinez-Neal

Exploring identity is one of the focuses in my new book.  In one of the lessons, I encourage students to discover the story of their nameWho named you?  What does your name mean?  What connection does your name have to your family or culture?  So of course I was VERY excited to read this delightful anchor book about a little girl learning the meaning behind her six names:  Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela.

The Day You Begin – Jacqueline Woodson

“There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.”  And so begins this poignant, powerful story by the amazing Jacqueline Woodson (Each Kindness, The Other Side, Brown Girl Dreaming).  If there is only ONE book you read this summer – this is it.  This is a must-own book for teachers,  librarians, and parents, and a must-share for all kids, no matter their ages.  I am absolutely in love with this story of pride in self, fear of not fitting in, and ultimately belonging.   A PERFECT book for sharing at the beginning of the school year to help build a welcoming community in your classroom and a perfect reminder that we are more alike than different.  My favorite book of 2018 so far!

Moon – Alison Oliver

A young girl who is overwhelmed by her daily “To Do” checklist learns how to embrace her inner wild child after meeting a wolfy friend one night.  A great message for us all to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of our lives,  get out, and enjoy play time in nature.  The illustrations are beautiful, with lovely hues of “night” colors and great expressions.

Crunch the Shy Dinosaur Greg Pizzoli

Very cute, unique interactive picture book that encourages readers to coax a very shy brontosaurus out from its hiding place.  I could see this as a great read-aloud in a Pre K or K class as the story invites readers to greet and speak softly to Crunch as well as introduce themselves to him.  Also a great book for providing calmness.

I’m Sad – Michael Ian Black

A simple, honest story about feeling sad. Every child needs to know that emotions don’t last and that it’s okay to let ourselves be sad sometimes without feeling the need to constantly put on a happy face for everyone.  Michael Ian Black and Debbi Ohi do an excellent job portraying that in this book.  I loved their first book I’m Bored and, while this one may not be as humorous, I think I liked it even more.

I Hate Everyone! Naomi Davis

Another great read-aloud for primary students.  A heartwarming story of a young girl who is overwhelmed with confusing emotions on her birthday.   Great for making connections and inferring that “I hate you” often really means “I need you.”   A wonderful “connect” book with such an accurate depiction of different emotions.  Great artwork.

Small Things – Mel Tregonning

Exceptionally-powerful, heart-breaking wordless picture book/graphic novel depicting childhood anxiety and worries.  Reading this book is an emotional experience, and one that would spark a lot of discussions, connections and inferences.  Beautiful, haunting and the back story to this book will break your heart.

The Rabbit Listened – Cori Doerrfeld

Get your Kleenex ready.  With spare, poignant text and adorable illustrations, The Rabbit Listened is a tender and deeply moving exploration of grief and empathy for very young children.  Simple message that sometimes what we need most is  a quiet, thoughtful listener. SO much to love about this book.  I especially liked that Taylor’s gender is never mentioned or indicated by the illustrations.

Grumpy Monkey – Suzanne Lang

Everyone has their grumpy days, and you know what? A grumpy day now and then is absolutely okay.  Picture books are deceiving. They hide big stories within their little bindings.  This is a story we all need to hear: it’s okay to feel your feelings, own them, lean into them as long as you don’t hurt others in the process.  Great read-aloud for a primary classroom – funny, silly and important all mixed together.

Whale in a Fishbowl Troy Howell, Richard Jones

While on the surface, this is a gentle story of Wednesday – a whale who lives in a giant fishbowl in the middle of the city but yearns for a life beyond her bowl.  But metaphorically, it is a universal story of belonging, about possibilities, and finding one’s perfect place.  Stunning illustrations.   This could be read to a primary class to discuss animals in captivity, or with older students to practice inferring.

Ocean Meets Sky – The Fan Brothers

I am a huge fan of this bother author-illustrator team.  I loved The Night Gardner and this new release is equally as whimsical and stunning.  While an imaginative journey of sorts, I included it here because of the emotional, dream-like journey that young Finn embarks on as a way of remembering his grandfather, who has recently passed away.  I love stories with multiple layers – kids will most likely see it as a story about adventure, and adults will recognize it as a story about loss, grief, and remembering.  Stunning.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hoping a title (or more) has caught your eye!  Next week, I will be focusing on new picture book about friendship and inclusion!

Have a great reading week, everyone!

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Filed under 2018 releases, Connect, Feelings, Grief, Identity, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Powerful Understanding

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Immigration, Autumn, Spiders and a Jellyfish!

IMWAYR

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

It’s been a busy start to the school year – with school and workshops!  But there is always time for new books!  Here are a few of my latest discoveries…

I’m New Here – Anne Sibley O’Brien

The school where I teach is made up of over 30 different cultures so this book is a must have “connect” book for our library!  We follow three immigrant children as they face the challenges of adapting to their new school and community while trying to maintain their  language, identity and sense of “home”.  Thoughtful, heartfelt and realistic with simple text and colorful illustrations. 

P’esk’a and the Salmon Ceremony – Scot Ritchie

With First Peoples being an important and integral part of BC’s new Education Plan, I’m on the look-out for authentic picture books to support the curriculum. P’esk’a is excited to celebrate the first day of the salmon ceremony, a custom of the Sts’ailes people, who have lived on the Harrison River in BC for 10,000 years. This celebration includes honoring and giving thanks to the river and the salmon.  This book includes an illustrated afterward, glossary and an introductory letter from Chief William Charlie.

My Leaf Book – Monica Wellington

Fall is my favorite season – changing leaves, apples, crisp mornings!  Last fall, I did a post of my favorite fall books.  (You can read that post HERE)  This new book is definitely be one I’ll add to my list!  This charming book follows a little girl as she hunts for fall leaves to press into her book.   An interesting look at different sizes, shapes, colors and patters of different leaves.  Simple text, bold, colorful illustrations and includes lessons on leaf rubbing and leaf art.

My Autumn Book – Wong Herbert Yee

It’s finally here!  I’ve been waiting for the final addition of Fall to Wong Herbert Yee’s adorable season collection!  (Other books include:  Tracks in the Snow, Summer Days and Nights, and Who Likes Rain? A little girl explores the outdoors and observes the gentle signs of the changing of the seasons and the arrival of fall. Soft, watercolor illustrations and lovely, simple text.  LOVE!

How to Be A Dog – Jo Williamson

Heart-warming and humourous “how to be”  book written from a dog’s perspective.  From choosing the right “owner” to learning where you should sleep, this book is delightful!  I would definitely use this as an anchor for a creative instructional writing piece.

I’m Trying To Love Spiders!  – Bethany Bartum

This humourous, creative non-fiction would make a great read-aloud!  It’s filled with interesting facts but written in a playful tone.  Great art! 

The Hugging Tree: A Story About Resilience – Jill Neimark

Wow. This is a powerful story that I can see being used at many levels.  It is the story of a tree, growing alone on a cliff.  The tree is faced with many challenges including thunder storms, freezing winters and vast, crashing waves, but the kindness and compassion of one little boy and protected by the natural world, the tree grows and eventually becomes a shelter for others.  The entire story could be seen as a metaphor for the hope and resilience we can show when faced with life’s struggles.  A great book for inferring and transform!

The Thing About Jellyfish – Ali Benjamin  (FREE Kindle PREVIEW of Chapter 1-11)

This book made my heart ache and my eyes sting. In fact, I think it should come with a box of Kleenex. Suzy is a smart, “different” grade 7 student who is dealing with the drowning death of her best and only friend, Franny.  As the story progresses, we learn the depth of Suzy’s grief: the end of her only friendship; her guilt for not being there; the terrible last conversation she had with Franny; – all too much for a young soul to carry.  Through her grief, she searches to find the reason why her friend drowned and becomes convinced that a jellyfish must have been the cause.  She stops speaking and becomes obsessed with jellyfish. This book is so, so beautiful, so emotional, so sad – at times, I had to stop reading it. I’m not sure how – but the weaving of jellyfish facts through Suzy’s sadness works seamlessly. I thought Fish in a Tree was my favorite novel of the year for middle grades – until I read this book.

Thanks for stopping by!  I’d love to know which book or books have caught your eye!

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Filed under dogs, Fall, Grief, immigration, instructions, jellyfish, New Books, Novels, Picture Book, Seasons

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – Books For Grieving and Healing

IMWAYR

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

A very good friend of mine is a principal in a neighbouring school district.  On Thursday, she learned that a grade 3 student in her school died under horrific and tragic circumstances.   The school, staff, parents and students are, as you can imagine, in shock and disbelief.  My friend has the enormous task of trying to support her school community while she, too, is grieving the loss of this dear little girl.  She stopped by my house on Friday and asked if I could recommend any picture books that she might be able to take to school on Monday to read to classes; books that might help them understand and deal with this sudden loss.  A beautiful reminder that in times when we may be at a loss for just the right words, we turn to children’s books to find strength and guidance.

In honor of the students, staff and parents at Rosemary Heights Elementary School in Surrey – here are some books that I hope will bring you some comfort during this difficult time:

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The Memory String – Eve Bunting

A young girl deals with the loss of her mother.  Holding on to memories of a lost loved one through buttons on a “memory string” and learning to create new ones.

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The Memory Tree – Britta Teckentrup

When Fox dies, his animal friends gather to share the memories of their friend.  A beautiful and heartfelt story about the death of a loved one and the memories that comfort those left behind.

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Always and Forever – Alan Durant

This book gives a heart-warming account of how we deal with bereavement and come to terms with the loss of somebody close to us. Beautiful illustrations and tender story of forest animals who are dealing with the loss of one of their close friend. 

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Water Bugs and Dragon Flies: Explaining Death to Young Children – Doris Stickley

In a simple, meaningful way, Doris Stickley uses an adapted fable about the waterbug that changes into a dragonfly to explain the death of a friend to neighbourhood children.  Some spiritual context is implied and while it does not focus on any particular religion, I found it particularly comforting. 

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The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic

This book  tells the story of a young boy trying to grieve, adapt, and accept the death of his mother. Told with such straight forward, simple gestures and emotion from anger to tears, this book will make your heart ache.  Powerful and emotional but a very good book to spark discussion and promote hope and healing.

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The Tenth Good Thing About Barney – Judith Viorst

This book is about the loss of a pet but I like how sensitively the book touches on expressing feelings about a loss (both sadness and good memories.) It does touch on the idea of Heaven, but does so in a neutral way.

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Michael Rosen’s Sad Book  – Michael Rosen

This wonderful book, illustrated by Quentin Blake, describes Michael Rosen’s grief at the death of his son.  It vividly describes the ever-changing fluidity of grief – the sudden and unexpected moments of happiness, then anger, then resentment.  Knowing that there different ways of being sad is an important message to share with people who are affected by a death or a loss. 

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My Father’s Arms are Like a Boat – Stein Erik Lunde

Haunting, beautiful story of a child and father’s sadness over the death of the mother.  Soft illustrations and poetic, subtle word choice – this story is achingly beautiful.

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The Fall of Freddie the Leaf – Leo Buscaglia

This book makes me cry but in a good way. It is an excellent choice when teaching children about the end of life for someone they love. It makes death a natural celebration of peace after a struggle to hang on to something that is no longer important. It speaks of a higher purpose in the circle of all things. 

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The Heart and the Bottle – Oliver Jeffers

This simple story tells of a young girl who “locks her heart away” after her grandfather dies, protecting it from feeling pain.   Wonderful, simple message about how to open up your heart after a loss and begin to love and feel again.  Beautiful message of hope and love. 

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Badger’s Parting Gifts – Susan Varley

This is a heart warming story that introduces grief, loss and the subject of death in a gentle way.  I like that the friends are so very sad when their friend dies, but by sharing happy memories of their friend together, it helps them deal with their sadness.

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I’ll Always Love You – Hans Wilhelm

This is a heart-aching story of a child dealing with the loss of the family dog.  Beautifully written and lovely illustrations.  Sad but helpful and hopeful in the end.

Thanks for stopping by.  I do recommend you read through these any of these books before sharing them with children as some of them may not be appropriate or fit your own beliefs.  I would love suggestions of books you have shared with students who may have experienced loss of a loved one.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the school community of Rosemary Heights Elementary as they deal with this loss.

 

 

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Filed under Grief, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?